Marvel Studios started as a novel concept. Headed by Kevin Feige, the group was asked to take control of Marvel’s own comic-to-big-screen incarnations and make them more faithful to their source material, as well as develop continuity between their projects.
It’s the kind of criss-cross universe comparable to that of their comics that made geeks salivate at the mouth. They even started off pretty well. “Iron Man” had an inspired bit of casting in Robert Downey Jr. and ended up making $318.4 million domestically. They even threw in a cameo of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury! Genius, I say.
Next came the more mediocre “The Incredible Hulk” which barely managed to top its Eric Bana-starring previous incarnation at the box office. But the films successfully began Marvel’s path to the upcoming “Avengers.” There were even rumors that “Hulk” star Edward Norton was so passionate about the character that he took on uncredited roles as both a producer and a screenwriter. He certainly wanted in on “Avengers.”
The company looked like it was different from the ignorant studios that seem to own Hollywood. They were giving fans what they wanted by hiring quality filmmakers and showing a dedication to the quality of their own projects–a live-action Pixar, if you will.
But the studio truly hadn’t been put to the test yet. Their next film was “Iron Man 2,” and it was a clunker if there ever was one. I mean, how do you mess up a film when you have Downey Jr., Jackson, Sam Rockwell and Mickey frickin’ Rourke!? Well, they managed to do it, alright. Audiences expecting the same smarts and energy as the first installment experienced shoddy storytelling, a plot that was not clearly fleshed out, and montages such as Tony Stark shooting lasers around a room and suddenly discovering a new atom… seriously?
What about the dark, alcoholic Tony Stark fans love from the comics? Why were actors like Rockwell and Rourke literally wasted, only performing in scenes necessary to move the plot forward but not to flesh out character? I mean, no one’s going to disagree that they are both excellent character actors.
The studio was clearly becoming a run-of-the-mill entity interested more in getting out quick, fast food-like product rather than giving people memorable films that entertain and refresh far beyond a 90-minute popcorn summer film. Rourke, known for his brutal honesty about everyone from himself to those he works with, outed the studio while he was out promoting the film “Immortals.” Rourke made the following statements about his experience working with the studio:
[W]hen I did Ivan Vanko in Iron Man, I fought… You know, I explained to Justin Theroux, to the writer, and to [Jon] Favreau, that I wanted to bring some other layers and colors [to the character], not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy. And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor.
[It’s] ****ing too bad, but it’s their loss. If they want to make mindless comic book movies, then I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to have to care so much and work so hard, and then fight them for intelligent reasoning, and just because they’re calling the shots they… You know, I didn’t work for three months on the accent and all the adjustments and go to Russia just so I could end up on the floor. Because that can make somebody say at the end of the day, oh **** ‘em, I’m just going to mail it in. But I’m not that kind of guy. I’m never going to mail it in.
If they let you, play the bad guy with other dimensions other than one-dimensional. You have to fight for that though, to bring layers to the character. Otherwise, if you’re working for the wrong studio or let’s say a director that doesn’t have any balls, then they’re just gonna want it to be the evil bad guy. […] So, if you’re working with some good studio guys that got brains and you’re working with a director with a set of nuts that’ll let you incorporate that then it’s fun. Otherwise, you end up with what happened on “Iron Man.”
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That sounds like enough explanation as to why “Iron Man 2″ felt like it was made by a 13-year-old boy. The films just got worse in quality with the release of “Thor” and “Captain America.” I mean, they picked the guy who directed “Jumanji” to direct “Captain America!” The same guy who was quoted time and time again wanting to downplay the patriotic side of Captain America. What? I thought these guys were trying to be more faithful to the characters they showed on screen. His name is Captain America! The film was awful. The special effects showing Chris Evans as a scrawny pre-Captain America were just sad and awkward. The action scenes were so cardboard that the film felt like it had no personality. And it all just felt like one big rush to the setup for “The Avengers” at the end. Clearly, Marvel Studios had become interested in simply making mindless comic book movies, which is the reason they took control of these projects in the first place.
The studio also dumbly fired Norton when it came time to cast The Hulk in “The Avengers,” and it replaced him with Mark Ruffalo. Here was their explanation:
We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.
I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I can read between the lines. Basically, they needed someone who was more of a puppet than Norton and whose voice would not interrupt theirs. So much for being a novel idea.
Has Marvel Studios really been a success? Not really. “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2″ managed to pull in heavy sums, but “The Incredible Hulk” couldn’t even match its production budget with its domestic haul. Neither “Thor” nor “Captain America: The First Avenger” could even touch the $200 million mark. The hauls they brought in were almost guaranteed just based on curiosity with the movie going public. I, for one, am not looking forward to “The Avengers.” Why should I? Marvel Studios has become just like the studios they were a reaction to. They make mindless entertainment that barely scratches out a profit and they allow no creativity, which we know leads to the lasting success films need.
We’ve already had Ruffalo out there comparing the Avengers to Occupy Wall Street, and behind the camera we have Joss Whedon, whose film credits include directing a whopping total of one picture. Marvel Studios is now just a part of the crop of studios turning out everything from crap to liberal crap and then not understanding the financial results. Waste your hard earned money on something more worth it.